The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow MP, has just ruled that Seema Malhotra’s claim that aides of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell “broke into” her office are, essentially, nonsense.
As The Canary previously reported, Malhotra asserted that she wanted a full investigation carried out into the alleged breaches of security. In a letter to Bercow last Friday, she said that parliamentary aides had been into her office on a least three occasions, asserting that the incidents:
frightened my staff, including a new intern, who have become concerned about their safety, and as such took the decision that no member of staff was to be left alone in the office.
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She said that she was:
concerned by their [the aides] actions and the implications this has for data protection in relation to my constituents and my staff. These incidents are a violation of a Member of Parliament’s privacy and raises serious concerns about the security of Members and their staff on the Parliamentary Estate.
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As shadow chancellor McDonnell said in an interview on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, these allegations had distressed his office manager:
My office, manager […] who has a key to all our rooms […] thought [Malhotra] had moved […] I’ve now got a member of staff […] who’s a widow, with daughters, this is her sole income. She’s one of the pleasantest, most helpful people I’ve come across. She’s now worried she’s going to lose her job and face prosecution because this has been described as a “break in”. That’s just so distressing; it’s unacceptable.
It would appear the Bercow was having none of Malhotra’s rather flaccid accusations. In a statement he said:
Having taken advice, I am satisfied that there is nothing in your letter or in the information subsequently elicited by the deputy Serjeant at Arms which would justify regarding these events as a possible breach.
So, Malhotra has essentially put both her staff and McDonnell’s through the wholly unpleasant experience of being thrust into the public eye (albeit anonymously) for absolutely no good reason. Her claims of illegality now stand dead in the water, and will only add weight to Corbyn supporters cries of an intentional smear campaign.
Responding to Bercow’s decision, McDonnell said:
It’s only right and fair that Seema apologises for the stress she has caused to my staff over the last few days. As I said on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday the Labour Party needs to unite and actions like this which are only being used to try to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership must stop.
With the Labour leadership contest now in its first full week, with both Owen Smith and Corbyn’s camps looking to begin to secure as many votes as possible, unhelpful, unwarranted and unwelcome interventions like Malhotra’s will only distract from the electoral process in hand. And the very fact she dragged innocent parliamentary staff into her self-created media circus should cause her to hang her head in shame.
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